This chicken curry is my family traditional recipe. Centuries ago, there was no documented recipe or recipe book. The knowledge and skills acquired through lots of practices in the kitchen were traditionally passed down the generations by the "nyonya", referring to the women who are a descendant of mixed Chinese-Malay parentage, known as "Peranakan Cina". Cina being Chinese. Each Peranakan Chinese family has their own family recipes, never documented or recorded then. It is not uncommon to find some variations in this recipe between two Peranakan families adopting to individual family tastes.
The "rempah" or curry spice is made from scratch. Traditionally, rempah is made using mortar and pestle. Modern time has made our tasks in the kitchen much simpler, like using a spice grinder or blender to make the rempah.
I am delighted to share this family recipe that I have never shared before. I hope this is a good way for me to document and preserve my family tradition and recipe so it's cooked by many others who love cooking food at home
Wash and clean the chicken first if using a whole chicken. Then chicken into small sections
Marinade chicken pieces with ground turmeric, salt and cooking oil
Chop all the fresh spice ingredients. Put in a blender and pulverised to make the curry spice paste "rempah"
Mix tamarind pulp with hot water to make tamarind juice
Slice kaffir lime leaves into fine slivers
Heat up some cooking oil on high heat. Once oil is hot, bruise remaining kaffir lime leaves. Toss into the hot oil. Add the curry spice paste "rempah" and fry until fragrantly aromatic
Add marinated chicken and tamarind juice. Cook on high heat and then lower heat to gentle simmer
Add coconut water, slivers of kaffir lime leaves and palm sugar
Squeeze some fresh lime juice, remove and plate
How to make
Wash and rinse the inside cavity of the chicken. Wipe dry with kitchen paper. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken into small sections. You can use chicken drumsticks and/or thighs if you prefer not to use a whole chicken. But, I would not recommend using chicken breast. It would be dry and tasteless for this recipe. This cooking process requires time to slow-cooked to enhance the flavour of the curry gravy or stock. That is why I prefer to use chicken with bones.
Marinade the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon ground turmeric powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1-2 tablespoons of cooking oil. If you plan to cook straight away, you can leave the chicken to marinade on the kitchen bench for 30 minutes while you prepare the spices. Otherwise, I would recommend to cling wrap the chicken in a bowl and leave in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight is best. When you are ready to cook, remove and let the chicken to sit on the kitchen bench to reach the room temperature.
To make the spice paste, roughly chop the following ingredients - fresh long red chillies, ginger, turmeric, galangal, french shallots, garlic, lemongrass - and add into the blender. In the same blender, add the dried chillies, candlenuts, toasted belachan and some cooking oil to help the blade spin.
Add 2 cups of hot water to a large knob of tamarind pulp to extract the tamarind juice. This liquid is used to make the curry gravy to get that little bit of tangy sourness in the gravy.
Slice 2 kaffir lime leaves into fine slivers. This is used towards to the end of cooking to give that extra freshness aroma of a citrusy lime fragrant.
On a hot work or pan, heat 1-2 cups of cooking oil (depends on how much chicken you are cooking). Once the oil is hot, crunch the remaining kaffir lime leaves and toss into the hot oil for 15 seconds. Add the spice paste "rempah" and fry for 2-3 minutes on high heat until aromatic.
Add marinated chicken and mix through with the fragrantly aromatic spice paste "rempah" and cook on high heat for 1-2 minutes before adding 2 cups of tamarind juice (extracted from the tamarind pulp). Gently mix through the liquid with the rempah evenly and let the chicken continue to cook for 15-20 minutes. Watch the heat. If the curry gravy is boiling too rapidly, turn the heat down to medium-low.
Add 270ml of coconut cream and 2 tablespoons of palm sugar and slivers of kaffir lime leaves. Mix through evenly and gently simmer for another 10 minutes.
Remove and plate. Squeeze some fresh lime juice. This curry gravy has a lot of flavours, intense and complex. It matches well with just a plain bowl of rice.
1 whole chicken (about 1.5-1.8kg)
3 lemongrass stalks
5 fresh long red chillies
3 dried chillies
4 cloves of garlic
10-12 french shallots
1 knob of fresh ginger (2-3 inches)
2 fresh turmeric (or frozen)
2 knobs of fresh galangal (or frozen) (2-3 inches)
8 kaffir lime leaves
1 fresh lime
2 tablespoons palm sugar
270ml coconut cream
1 large knob of tamarind pulp + 2 cups water
1 teaspoon toasted belachan (Malaysian shrimp paste)